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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Saudi prince gets onboard animal-alternative food start-up in US

Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal joins the board of Hampton Creek, after seven members depart 

Hampton Creek, an alternative to animal products, is looking for new participants after the entire board of directors walked out. Behrouz Mehri / AFP
Hampton Creek, an alternative to animal products, is looking for new participants after the entire board of directors walked out. Behrouz Mehri / AFP

After losing his entire board this summer, Hampton Creek chief executive, Josh Tetrick, is taking steps to add directors at the beleaguered food startup ahead of a fundraising push.

Hampton Creek, a condiments maker with major backing from technology investors, said it added four board members, including Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, a prominent investor and animal rights activist.

The other new directors are: Larry Kopald, founder and president of environmental group the Carbon Underground; Cliff Coles, a longtime food safety consultant; and Jim Borel, a former executive vice president at chemical and agriculture giant DuPont. The company said it also added three advisers.

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Backers of the six-year-old startup include billionaires Vinod Khosla and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang. The San Francisco-based company has raised at least US$220 million to fuel its ambition to sell plant-based alternatives to animal products, led by Just Mayo, and a lofty goal to develop lab-grown meat.

However, the company has faced many blows in the past year. This summer, Hampton Creek was sued over a trademark dispute, lost retail giant Target’s business and saw its entire board leave Mr Tetrick on his own. Part of the disagreement among former board members stemmed from Mr Tetrick’s moves to wrest control from directors. At the time, Mr Tetrick described board changes as a way to give more power to his employees.

Although Hampton Creek has burned through the majority of the capital it’s raised, Mr Tetrick is soliciting new funds in Asia and the Middle East, said people familiar with the matter. The loss of seven board members in the past year -- most of them in June -- has made it difficult for Mr Tetrick to close a deal, the people said. A spokesman for Hampton Creek said the company has enough funds to grow and access to additional capital if needed.